Does the Church Teach Evolution? *
Are the opening chapters of Genesis a literal, scientific description of the world's creation? Or is their language more figurative, whose essential meaning points to fundamental truths about God and the world? Christians have debated the matter since ancient times.
Perhaps the sharpest controversy over these passages has to do with human origins, usually focusing on the scientific theory of evolution. Some believe that Genesis, rightly understood, denies any possibility that human beings have descended in some sense from other species. Others, however, claim that such evolution is a proven scientific fact.
Catholic tradition provides a different perspective. Following the insights of St. Augustine and others, it allows that Genesis employs figurative language, so it cannot be cited as a scientific text that rules out human evolution altogether. At the same time, however, the "proven facts of science" accepted by one generation may be rejected by later generations because of new evidence. So the Church warns scientists against presumption in their conclusions. She specifically rejects any scientific theories (such as that of Charles Darwin) which insist that evolution was the result of random forces rather than the intelligent design of a personal Creator. Such pretentious claims move beyond the limited realm of inquiry that is possible to science.
Given divine revelation as whole, the Church teaches that a few fundamental truths about human origins cannot be contradicted by scientific speculation:
The entire universe, including the human race, is not the result of chance, but of God's purposeful, loving design (see Gn 1:1, 31).
Human beings are not simply more advanced animals; they bear the image of God in a unique way (see Gn 1:26-27).
Even if God may have created the bodies of the first humans through evolution, their souls, like all human souls, were immediately created by him at their conception (see Gn 2:7).
All human beings share a single, historical ancestor, so they all have the same nature and origin, and belong to one human family (see Acts 17:26).
The primordial fall from original holiness of our first human parents was a real event within time. It left them and their descendants with original sin (see Rom 5:12-14, 18-19; see also: "What is Original Sin?")
Other related scriptures: Ps 139:13; Lk 3:23-38; 1 Cor 15:22, 45; Col 1:16; Jas 1:18; Rv 4:11.
Catechism of the Catholic Church: 33; 355-406; 415-417; 1934.
*Quoted from The New Catholic Answer Bible: A-3. Wichita, Kansas, Fireside Catholic Publishing, 2005. www.firesidecatholic.com
Additional insights at: www.catholic.com